By Linda Sutter – July 26, 2022
They want exclusive operation.
Del Norte Ambulance is going before the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, July 26, 2022 at 10:00 a.m. The Owner of Del Norte Ambulance wants the county to sign a contract for an exclusive provider of Emergency Medical Services in Del Norte County. But hold the phone folks, information from the AD HOC committee is damning.
The Ad Hoc Committee divided this project into three groups; First Responders, Public Service Providers, and Private Citizens. Each group was asked questions pertinent to their scope of services.
First Responders, Crescent City Fire and Rescue responders were interviewed April 6, 2022. Those present were Chief Gillespie, and Chief James Weiland. Chief Ryan Wakefield provided written answers to his questions presented. Fort Dick Fire Protection District, Gasquet Fire Protection District, and Klamath Protection Fire District, were all interviewed on April 11, 2022. Those present were Fort Dick Fire Randy Crawford, Klamath Fire District Loni Levi, Gasquet Fire District Nick Karonopolous. Law Enforcement interviews with California Highway Patrol Commander Dupee and Crescent City Police Chief Griffin were conducted on April 11, 2022 as well. Del Norte County Sheriff was not available at that time.
The majority of the stakeholders in the category are fire fighters who have had direct contact with the Del Norte Ambulance EMT’s on a regular day to day basis. They were the most critical of Del Norte Ambulance.
Their complaints ranged from Del Norte Ambulance not using sterile bandages, wherein gauze was repackaged in baggies, EMT’s and some paramedics were disheveled, unprofessional in appearance, to “not moving with purpose,” referring to a call of a non-responsive 2 year old in which the fire department, who was across town on another call, got there sooner than the Del Norte Ambulance.
Response times, failure to replace equipment or supplies, lack of professionalism, were the top complaints.
The Stakeholders who made the complaints were able to follow up each criticism with a specific example to support their claim. These stories included times EMT’s responding to the scene provided inaccurate information, refused to follow direction of Incident Command System, and did not cooperate with other responders on the scene.
When asked about the EMT’s performance answers included, adequate, average, or horrible. One Fire Chief stated, “there are some conscientious people in the field but for some they need to be placed on a performance improvement plan.”
The Law Enforcement found the Del Norte Ambulance was responsive and respectable. They have a great relationship and appreciate their assistance with CPR courses as well as community engagement. According to Commander Dupee who is in charge of a yearly ambulance inspection report, “Del Norte Ambulance has been in compliance for six years.
Police Chief Griffin has appreciated their training in administering Narcan, a service he has found to be invaluable.
Fire Departments were most outspoken. Their concern was that the ambulance was not always staffed with a paramedic only a basic life support EMT and felt this did not serve the community. Del Norte Ambulance did not have enough advanced life support EMT’s just Basic life support. In fact The Del Norte Ambulance once blamed an elderly woman for not calling in her husband’s conditions right.
Del Norte Ambulance does not notify the Fire Departments of their staff shortages which causes the Fire departments to make the hard decision to load in their vehicles to transport to the hospitals. Currently Del Norte Ambulance has a policy that states the ambulance cannot be taken off the road which leads into another set of issues.
Rural areas such as Gasquet and Klamath have unmaintained county roads. This certainly would have to change in order for Del Norte Ambulance to become an exclusive medical transport provider of emergency services.
Del Norte Ambulance has been in service for 30 years. There appears to be no other competition in that respect. The hospital and Behavioral Health felt Del Norte Ambulance were reliable and there have been issues but nothing major.